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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rockwell Museum of Western Art, Corning, New York

The Rockwell Museum of Western Art promotes itself as having "the finest American Western and Native American art collection this side of the Mississippi." Corning business owners Bob and Hertha Rockwell amassed an impressive collection of Western art and artifacts, Carder Steuben glass, firearms, and antique toys. They displayed this in their family department store today known as the Rockwell Center. As their collection grew they decided to donate this to a future museum. In 1974 executives from Corning Glass Works embraced the vision of a new museum in Corning. A temporary home opened in the Baron Steuben Hotel in November 1976 while a permanent home was being secured in the Old City Hall building. The City Hall building had been vacated in 1972 following a devastating flood caused by Hurricane Agnes.

The Old City Hall building was designed by architect A.J. Warner and built by Thomas Bradley in 1893 for less than $29,000. A capital campaign launched in 1980 generated $2.5 million to restore the exterior of the building and redesign the interior for exhibition space. Architect John D. Milner created plans to guide the rehabilitation. Original features such as tin ceilings in the Fire Station Gallery and the Art Room were retained, as was the iron door to the women's jail.

First Fridays is an event that helps raise exposure for the Rockwell Museum of Western Art. Admission and activities are free of charge. Atwater Estate Vineyards from the Finger Lakes provides a wine tasting, and other refreshments are provided. Patrons are encouraged to visit restaurants and shops in Corning's Gaffer District.

Salamanca Rail Museum, Salamanca, New York

Salamanca, located in the "Enchanted Mountains of Cattaragus County" promotes its historic and cultural atmosphere, and also entertainment and night life provided by area casinos. Seneca Gaming and Entertainment in Salamanca is something of a regional draw. This is the only nation that has a U.S. city within its boundaries.

A critical mass of cultural attractions appears to have emerged with the Allegany State Park, the Seneca Iroquois National Museum, the Salamanca Rail Museum, and the Salamanca Historical Society.

The 1912 depot for the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway, today houses an impressive collection of railroad artifacts. The building was acquired in 1980 and was a vandalized vacant shell that had stood empty for 20 years. Provide donations, government grants, and volunteer labor helped to bring the station back. Features in the building display are either a restored original or an exact duplicate based on the original architectural plans.

A museum within the railroad station showcases artifacts from the three railroads that served the region: the Erie, the Baltimore and Ohio, and the Pennsylvania Railroads.

The Salamanca Historical Society was founded in 1995 to help preserve the city's history. They had several temporary homes before signing a lease with the City of Salamanca for the historic bank building at 125 Main St. A Small Cities Grant program from the State of New York helped to provide funds to restore the building. The Society moved into their new permanent home on May 14, 2004.

While the Salamanca Rail Museum and Salamanca Historical Society are in close proximity to one another, there does not appear to be a strong programmatic connection between the two. These two attractions are further constrained by being separated by raised railroad tracks that pedestrians or cars must pass under.